Open for Shipped Orders!
Our physical store is closed, but you can still get many books shipped to you directly from our warehouse. Here's how:  
1. Only order titles with an inventory status of "Available at the Warehouse" 
2. Select the " UPS/USPS Ground Shipping" option
3. Five or fewer books per order if possible.

We are happy to fulfill other orders, but will not be able to process them until at least May 18. Other options: try  or - keep it indie!
Shelf Stable: May 19
“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them." Mark Twain
We’ve lost our third place.

After opening one morning several years ago, a young man approached me with an idea. His wife was starting in a graduate program at a local university, and while they were here, he was thinking of starting a business. He pointed out that bookstores are a place of community, and wouldn’t it be a good idea if they organized in order to promote themselves as such, as third places. I listened to his idea, and then gently told him that we were already aware of this. I pointed out our customers in the store gathered around coffee and books, engaging with one another, some quite loudly, and all intently. I mentioned that most of these people had not known each other before coming to PSB, and how they had formed real friendships that included daily and weekly meet-ups here at the store. And as booksellers, we too had formed friendships with many of our customers and our local authors. He looked a little shocked, if not disappointed, by a lost business opportunity. I’m not sure I ever saw him again.

We all have third places. It may be a café like Zing, a favorite restaurant, your local library, a neighborhood gym, or maybe it’s Porter Square Books. A place you go to for the quiet, or to be recognized, for a quick social exchange, or to meet with friends and relax. Places where you can detach a little, places that round out your life.

A few days ago my husband observed that in the pandemic we have lost our third places. Immediately I recalled the recent times I had wished for a favorite destination at the end of a bike ride, or longed for the missed latte and its accompanying treat. I remembered sipping wine in one of our local restaurants at the end of a long week, or simply running into a neighbor and comfortably catching up with one another. The chance meetings and small pleasures that occur in the third places enliven our daily lives.

I think of my weekly store openings as a third place: enjoying the quietude of being first in the store; seeing to the register drawers and newspapers, and doing some last minute shelving, all done to the scent of coffee drifting from Zing. There is last-minute straightening of book tables and endcaps, while keeping an eye on the clock. At 7:00, I open the doors to familiar faces, exchange “good morning”, and another day at the bookstore begins. Really, what could be better?

I look forward to seeing you in the store again,

-- Robin
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Spotlight on Debuts!
There's something incredibly special about debuts. I've always loved this "genre" - in the same way that I'm inclined to pick up a book by an author I know I love, hearing that it's the first book by a writer immediately snags me. Maybe it's the opportunity to join someone at the start of their journey, to be able to look back and say "I knew them when." A case could be made for some inherently raw quality in debuts - not in terms of lack of editorial polish, but the sense that here's the chance to see the first stirrings of inspiration, to find the foundations of thought and inquiry that the author is destined to build on, change, and grow along their writing career. There's perhaps a purity of intention that writers who've spent more time "in the scene" of the publishing game may have put aside for more specific strategies.

But I'm more inclined to think I love debuts because they are an incredibly celebratory moment. A book initially exists in the mind of its creator as an nebulous thing. There's no guarantee that the idea that first struck is one that the writer can pin down, flesh out, finish. There's further no promise that even a beautiful manuscript gets picked up by an agent and then a publishing house; the right person needs to find it on the right day with the right feeling: that they're ready to take a chance. So much work is put into writing, and so many fortunate moments need to align for it to become a book--each one printed is its own tiny miracle, and is a testament to the artistry, honest effort, and a degree of pure luck of the author. I can't help it: for all that I have no stakes in the matter, when I finish a debut, I feel flush with pride. I want to congratulate the author and share some of the joy at witnessing this small miracle of hard work and happenstance. That this new voice has a chance to be uplifted? It's magic.

As I mentioned in an earlier Shelf post, this is a really hard time to have a new book out--it's especially difficult for debut authors, who deserve events and fanfare and even a moment of rapt attention, scarce as that is these days, and instead have a laundry list of cancellations. They deserve the chance to celebrate. To honor these writers, I'd like to spotlight a few debuts we've loved recently. Some have been on sale for a while already, others have publication dates down the line (have we mentioned how preorders are maybe the number one way you as a reader can support an author?). I invite you to raise a glass--and to pick up any of these miraculous reads.

And please - if there's a new writer you want to shout to the mountaintops, don't hesitate to share with us, so we can yell with you! -- Leila
Need Some Inspiration?
Today we're going to talk ORGANIZATION.

So I have a lot of t-shirts. I mean a LOT. If I wanted to, I could wear a different shirt every day for two months and still have some left over to change into if I spill something on them. 

Since I do, generally, do laundry more often than that, back in the dark ages when I kept my t-shirts in a drawer, this would lead to a lot of really great shirts falling to the bottom of the pile and being forgotten, while other shirts were worn over and over again. And that was all assuming I could fit all the t-shirts in at all! My dresser isn't massive. It does the job for most things, but it wasn't designed for shirtageddon. 
Fortunately, I am a creative thinker. With the help of some clear shoe organizers (I got mine from our neighbors at Tags ), I made a t-shirt display that functions both as an art piece and as an easy way to keep things organized! I just fold them in the normal t-shirt way, roll them so that you can see the art and stick them in.

Now I can look at my awesome t-shirts all the time even when I'm not wearing them! And when I'm trying to decide, I can see all of my options, not just the ones that have managed to make it to the top of the pile.

There are other creative ways to reorganize the stuff in your life. The cardboard from a toilet paper roll can be used to organize cords. Take an egg carton and keep paperclips and tacks in it. Take those books that don't fit on the bookshelf and use them as a surface to hold the new books you just bought that also don't fit on the bookshelf.

(Okay, seriously, if you have book organization tips that aren't just "buy more bookshelves" or "stop buying more books and read the ones you already have" I would love to hear them. Preferably before I am crushed under a pile of falling books.)

Honestly, most days the best I can do organization-wise is make sure each shoe goes on the correct foot. But sometimes I get struck with the urge to radically organize parts of my life. And when I do, it's nice to have cool, creative ideas to make it fun. I hope my t-shirt organizer can inspire you! -- Shana
Bedtime Stories
Whoops! You know those nights where you're so exhausted, you pass out before you even turn the light out? Yeah... something like that happened to us last night, if you were wondering where we were! Instead, we humbly submit Part 2 of Taika Waititi & Friends reading James and the Giant Peach. This time he's accompanied by Meryl Streep and Benedict Cumberbatch. They're basically honorary employees, really!
And of course, don't forget to meet us over at our Instagram story at 8:45pm for tonight's live bedtime reading! (For real!)
Support Cafe Zing Baristas!
Although Cafe Zing is its own business separate from ours, we really don't see it that way: Zing workers are part of the Porter Square Books family. They keep us well supplied - very well supplied - with caffeine, kindness, and some great tunes. Sometimes they give us staff picks; sometimes we give them exact change because we've bought the same, perfect, comforting, delicious beverage twice a day five days a week for how long, now?

They're our family, and they could use a hand. If you are able, please considering donating to the Cafe Zing GoFundMe; 100% of proceeds go to baristas. What might you have spent at Zing over the past weeks if it we were in normal times? If that $10 is still in your wallet, consider putting it in their tip jar. We love you, Zing!
Featured Pick for Kids
Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Sarah Alfageeh

An absolute delight! So charming, bright, and uplifting. Even when there’s some drama, there’s always hope. Love for family, friends, and celebration just make for a wonderful read. The illustrator Sara Alfageeh (@thefoofinator) is also local!
Featured Pick for Adults
Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang

Comic and contemplative, this book helped me pause for a moment during this time of constant stress. Read if you enjoyed Ling Ma's Severance or Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere.
 -- Rebecca

A Porter Square Books Choose Your Own Adventure!
"Listen, you two," you say. "We've got to get out of here -- we need to find someplace quiet to make a plan. Roger, this is your book. Do you know somewhere we can go?"

A lone eyeball peeks out from underneath the coverlet, which is fluttering in the breeze off the sea. "Yes, yes, of course. Page 275 should do nicely."

"Men! Set course at once! We set sail post haste." Summit straightens, in his element. His crew look ready to spring into action. You try to nod supportively, but...

"Uh, Summit? I think I just ... turn to page 275." You wave the book at him. He frowns, but another Witchy screech fills the air, and you have no time to board a ship. "Come on." You grab Summit's oddly flat elbow, and a leg of Roger's bedframe, and flip open the book about two-thirds through. You have just a split second to notice that it's opened perfectly to page 275, and then --

First you're falling, either for a very long time, or no time at all, depending on whether you're upside down or right side up, you're not really sure. Then you stop falling, you think - you're not sure because everything around you, Summit, and Roger is just vague, creamy, nothingness. "Roger," you say, and it comes out too loudly, "Where are we?"

"Page 275," he whispers back. "It's a blank page between sections. Very quiet." You'd like to argue the point but hanging in the off-white nothingness has you slightly nauseous, and you better get to the point.

"We need a plan," you say, whispering this time. Summit nods thoughtfully. "Aye," he offers quietly. Roger blinks at you.

"So ... anyone got anything?" The silence hangs in the air for a moment, extra dense in the empty space. "Okay, look, let's recap what we know. I pulled a random book off a shelf and was transported to a castle inhabited by a witch, who used a contract to curse Roger into recruit unwitting assistants who'd be trapped inside its pages, Summit and his crew included. As well as, well, you know, me. While a not very polite Witch goes on a cooking rampage."

"Yes," says Roger. "Resounds correctly in these ears," says Summit.

"Okay," you say. "Let's address this logically. First we need to free Roger from that contract, or else he's just going to keep trapping people here. Then we can work on getting ourselves home. Roger, you signed a contract. Anything you remember about it? What it looked like? Where the Witch might have taken it? Where you were when you signed it, even?"

He takes a moment. "It was a long time ago. I just can't say for sure," he says solemnly. "Please, Roger," you press him. "Don't you want to save all the poor souls you've been forced to kidnap and send on weird culinary adventures? Or, um -- Summit? Don't you want to save Summit?"

"Yes. Yes of course. It .. hmm... there was perhaps some writing on the other side of the paper?" Roger takes a deep breath. "Yes. I do believe. I didn't look at it closely, you see, not with the Witch breathing down my neck. But, well, if I recall--it looked a bit like a recipe."
Do you...
Flip through the pages of the book looking for a recipe.
Leave page 275 and go back to Roger's room to see if it might be hidden there.
A recipe? It's gotta be in the Witch's kitchen...
Audio Book Of The Month
The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

Fatima is a concubine of the sultan of the last emirate in the Iberian Peninsula to submit to the Spanish Inquisition. When her dearest friend, Hassan, a mapmaker who can map places he has never seen (and that do not always exist), is singled out by the Inquisition, she flees with him and a jinn, following the trail of the elusive and mythical Bird King, who may or may not be able to grant them sanctuary. Wilson’s latest novel is rich with the historical detail, lush description, and fantastical elements that we have come to know and love from her. A story of resistance, freedom, seeking, and strength, and a true fable for our times.
--Anna Elkund, University Bookstore
See you next time here at Shelf Stable!
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